Top 7 Nonfiction Books for Book Clubs in 2021

by Heather Caliendo
Featured image for Nonfiction books for 2021 list

The top nonfiction books for book clubs in 2021 list features seven different reads from a variety of perspectives.

I actually used to read about 98% fiction. Part of the reason is that I work as a journalist for my day job so I spend a lot of time consuming news. So fiction is a nice escape for me.

But last year, I got more into nonfiction books and found myself really enjoying it! And I know that many book clubs do gravitate toward nonfiction from time to time. So I figured it would be good to put together a list of nonfiction titles that will help spark plenty of discussion at your next book club meeting.

These titles are a mix of books published last year and ones that will publish in 2021. Let’s get to it!


A Promised Land by Barack Obama

I highly recommend you all add A Promised Land to your list. You might think you know or remember much from President Obama’s first term but there is just so much to unravel and learn. I really enjoyed President Obama’s writing style and you felt like you’re right there with him from the campaign to inauguration day to trying to pass healthcare reform. The book is quite lengthy but it’s worth it!

And to share a really cool moment, basketball player Ekpe Udoh used some of my book club questions during his Twitter book club meeting and President Obama actually tweeted a video answering one of my questions! One of the neatest moments ever! So if your book club does read A Promised Land be sure to check out my book club questions. Here’s the synopsis:

In the stirring, highly anticipated first volume of his presidential memoirs, Barack Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Obama takes readers on a compelling journey from his earliest political aspirations to the pivotal Iowa caucus victory that demonstrated the power of grassroots activism to the watershed night of November 4, 2008, when he was elected 44th president of the United States, becoming the first African American to hold the nation’s highest office.

Reflecting on the presidency, he offers a unique and thoughtful exploration of both the awesome reach and the limits of presidential power, as well as singular insights into the dynamics of U.S. partisan politics and international diplomacy. Obama brings readers inside the Oval Office and the White House Situation Room, and to Moscow, Cairo, Beijing, and points beyond.

We are privy to his thoughts as he assembles his cabinet, wrestles with a global financial crisis, takes the measure of Vladimir Putin, overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds to secure passage of the Affordable Care Act, clashes with generals about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, tackles Wall Street reform, responds to the devastating Deepwater Horizon blowout, and authorizes Operation Neptune’s Spear, which leads to the death of Osama bin Laden.

A Promised Land is extraordinarily intimate and introspective—the story of one man’s bet with history, the faith of a community organizer tested on the world stage. Obama is candid about the balancing act of running for office as a Black American, bearing the expectations of a generation buoyed by messages of “hope and change,” and meeting the moral challenges of high-stakes decision-making.

He is frank about the forces that opposed him at home and abroad, open about how living in the White House affected his wife and daughters, and unafraid to reveal self-doubt and disappointment. Yet he never wavers from his belief that inside the great, ongoing American experiment, progress is always possible.

You can order the book on Amazon here.


Open Book by Jessica Simpson

For anyone who remembers the Newlyweds show on MTV back in the day, Open Book by Jessica Simpson is a must-read. She’s had a unique career and has continued to be stereotyped. However, she really peels back the layers in her memoir. This is a readable book that is not too long but will provide a lot of discussion. Here’s the synopsis:

This was supposed to be a very different book. Five years ago, Jessica Simpson was approached to write a motivational guide to living your best life. She walked away from the offer, and nobody understood why. The truth is that she didn’t want to lie. 

Jessica couldn’t be authentic with her readers if she wasn’t fully honest with herself first. 

Now, America’s Sweetheart, preacher’s daughter, pop phenomenon, reality tv pioneer, and the billion-dollar fashion mogul invites readers on a remarkable journey, examining a life that blessed her with the compassion to help others but also burdened her with an almost crippling need to please. Open Book is Jessica Simpson using her voice, heart, soul, and humor to share things she’s never shared before.

First celebrated for her voice, she became one of the most talked-about women in the world, whether for music and fashion, her relationship struggles, or as a walking blonde joke. But now, instead of being talked about, Jessica is doing the talking. Her book shares the wisdom and inspirations she’s learned and shows the real woman behind all the pop-culture cliché’s — “chicken or fish,” “Daisy Duke,” “football jinx,” “mom jeans,” “sexual napalm…” and more. Open Book is an opportunity to laugh and cry with a close friend, one that will inspire you to live your best, most authentic life, now that she is finally living hers.

You can order the book on Amazon here.


Everybody (Else) Is Perfect: How I Survived Hypocrisy, Beauty, Clicks, and Likes by Gabrielle Korn

Gabrielle Korn is the former editor-in-chief of Nylon and talks about her journey in being named the youngest editor-in-chief in the magazine’s history. But her life was far from perfect. In these personal essays, she takes the reader on her journey and explores many hot button topics.

Gabrielle Korn starts her professional life with all the right credentials. Prestigious college degree? Check. A loving, accepting family? Check. Instagram-worthy offices and a tight-knit group of friends? Check, check. Gabrielle’s life seems to reach the crescendo of perfect when she gets named the youngest editor-in-chief in the history of one of fashion’s most influential publication. Suddenly she’s invited to the world’s most epic parties, comped beautiful clothes and shoes from trendy designers, and asked to weigh in on everything from gay rights to lip gloss on one of the most influential digital platforms.

But behind the scenes, things are far from perfect. In fact, just a few months before landing her dream job, Gabrielle’s health and wellbeing are on the line, and her promotion to editor-in-chief becomes the ultimate test of strength. In this collection of inspirational and searing essays, Gabrielle reveals exactly what it’s truly like in the fashion world, trying to find love as a young lesbian in New York City, battling with anorexia, and trying not to lose herself in a mirage of women’s empowerment and Instagram perfection.

Through deeply personal essays, Gabrielle recounts her struggles to reconcile her long-held insecurities about her body while coming out in the era of The L Word, where swoon-worthy lesbians are portrayed as skinny, fashion-perfect, and power-hungry. She takes us with her everywhere from New York Fashion Week to the doctor’s office, revealing that the forces that try to keep women small are more pervasive than anyone wants to admit, especially in a world that’s been newly branded as woke.

From #MeToo to commercialized body positivity, Korn’s biting, darkly funny analysis turns feminist commentary on its head. Both an in-your-face take on impossible beauty standards and entrenched media ideals and an inspiring call for personal authenticity, this powerful collection is ideal for fans of Roxane Gay and Rebecca Solnit.

You can order the book on Amazon here.


Just as I Am by Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson recently passed away at the age of 96. The groundbreaking actress received 16 Emmy nominations and won three. She also earned an Oscar nomination and was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2019—the first presented to a Black woman. Here’s the synopsis for her memoir:

“In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson has not only succeeded as an actor, she has shaped the course of history.” –President Barack Obama, 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony

Just As I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. In these pages, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and mother, a sister, and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by His hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say.” –Cicely Tyson

You can order the book on Amazon here.


Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

This book documents the four-hundred-year journey of African Americans from 1619 to the present—edited by Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist, and Keisha N. Blain, author of Set the World on Fire. The editors have assembled ninety writers, each of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span. It sounds so interesting. Here’s the full synopsis:

The story begins in 1619—a year before the Mayflower—when the White Lion disgorges “some 20-and-odd Negroes” onto the shores of Virginia, inaugurating the African presence in what would become the United States. It takes us to the present, when African Americans, descendants of those on the White Lion and a thousand other routes to this country, continue a journey defined by inhuman oppression, visionary struggles, stunning achievements, and millions of ordinary lives passing through extraordinary history. 

Four Hundred Souls is a unique one-volume “community” history of African Americans. The editors, Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, have assembled ninety brilliant writers, each of whom takes on a five-year period of that four-hundred-year span. The writers explore their periods through a variety of techniques: historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes, and fiery polemics.

They approach history from various perspectives: through the eyes of towering historical icons or the untold stories of ordinary people; through places, laws, and objects. While themes of resistance and struggle, of hope and reinvention, course through the book, this collection of diverse pieces from ninety different minds, reflecting ninety different perspectives, fundamentally deconstructs the idea that Africans in America are a monolith—instead it unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness. 

This is a history that illuminates our past and gives us new ways of thinking about our future, written by the most vital and essential voices of our present.

You can order the book on Amazon here.


The Beauty of Living Twice by Sharon Stone

Sharon Stone is one of those iconic actresses. But her life completely changed when she suffered a massive stroke and it took seven years for her to heal. Sharon covers that experience and much more in her much anticipated memoir. Here’s the synopsis:

She was one of the most renowned actresses in the world–until a massive stroke cost her not only her health, but her career, family, fortune, and global fame. In The Beauty of Living Twice, Sharon Stone chronicles her efforts to rebuild her life, and the slow road back to wholeness and health. In an industry that doesn’t accept failure, in a world where too many voices are silenced, Stone found the power to return, the courage to speak up, and the will to make a difference in the lives of women and children around the globe.

Over the course of these intimate pages, as candid as a personal conversation, Stone talks about her pivotal roles, her life-changing friendships, her worst disappointments, and her greatest accomplishments. She reveals how she went from a childhood of trauma and violence to a business that in many ways echoed those same assaults, under cover of money and glamour. She describes the strength and meaning she found in her children, and in her humanitarian efforts. And ultimately, she shares how she fought her way back to find not only her truth, but her family’s reconciliation and love.

Stone made headlines not just for her beauty and her talent, but for her candor and her refusal to “play nice,” and it’s those same qualities that make this memoir so powerful. The Beauty of Living Twice is a book for the wounded, and a book for the survivors; it’s a celebration of women’s strength and resilience, a reckoning, and a call to activism. It is proof that it’s never too late to raise your voice, and speak out.

You can order the book on Amazon here.


The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos by Judy Batalion

This story has already been optioned by Steven Spielberg for an upcoming movie. It covers the brave Jewish women who became resistance fighters―a group of unknown heroes whose exploits have never been chronicled in full, until now. Here’s the synopsis:

Witnesses to the brutal murder of their families and neighbors and the violent destruction of their communities, a cadre of Jewish women in Poland―some still in their teens―helped transform the Jewish youth groups into resistance cells to fight the Nazis.

With courage, guile, and nerves of steel, these “ghetto girls” paid off Gestapo guards, hid revolvers in loaves of bread and jars of marmalade, and helped build systems of underground bunkers. They flirted with German soldiers, bribed them with wine, whiskey, and home cooking, used their Aryan looks to seduce them, and shot and killed them. They bombed German train lines and blew up a town’s water supply. They also nursed the sick and taught children.

Yet the exploits of these courageous resistance fighters have remained virtually unknown.

As propulsive and thrilling as Hidden Figures, In the Garden of Beasts, Band of Brothers, and A Train in Winter, The Light of Days at last tells the true story of these incredible women whose courageous yet little-known feats have been eclipsed by time. Judy Batalion―the granddaughter of Polish Holocaust survivors―takes us back to 1939 and introduces us to Renia Kukielka, a weapons smuggler and messenger who risked death traveling across occupied Poland on foot and by train.

Joining Renia are other women who served as couriers, armed fighters, intelligence agents, and saboteurs, all who put their lives in mortal danger to carry out their missions. Batalion follows these women through the savage destruction of the ghettos, arrest and internment in Gestapo prisons and concentration camps, and for a lucky few―like Renia, who orchestrated her own audacious escape from a brutal Nazi jail―into the late 20th century and beyond.

You can order the book on Amazon here.

Happy reading!

You may also like

Leave a Comment